Sierra National Forest

Scenic Driving

Along with these seven suggestions, you might want to look at the newly crowned Sierra Vista Scenic Byway.

Bass Lake Area
Located east of Oakhurst, Bass Lake is a popular destination that provides boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing, and camping. There are four family campgrounds at Bass Lake that are operated by a concessionaire under special permit from the Forest Service. Forks, Lupine-Cedar, Spring Cove, and Wishon Point are located on the south side of the lake and provide tables, fire rings, flush toilets, and piped water. Lupine-Cedar, the newest, has several double-family sites that accommodate large family groups. A daily fee is charged for camping and reservations for the summer season. Several group campgrounds may also be reserved in the area. All campgrounds generally close for the winter except Lupine-Cedar.

State Highway 41 to the Yosemite National Park Entrance
From Oakhurst Forest Service Station on State Highway 41 north to the entrance of Yosemite National Park, more activities await. At Forest Road 6S41, west of 41, is the Miami Motorcycle Trails. The trails offer the motorcyclist 60 miles of varied terrain. East of 41 is the Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail. This 3.7-mile hike makes a great day hike as it offers scenic views of Corlieu and Red Rock Falls. The vertical drop of Corlieu Falls is 100 feet and that of Red Rock Falls is 30 feet.

You can cross-country ski or "just play in the snow" at Goat Meadow Winter Sports Area, at the town of Fish Camp, near the entrance to Yosemite National Park.

State Highway 49 to Junction 140 and Midpines
Northwest of Oakhurst on State Highway 49, then north on Junction 140 through the town of Mariposa, and then to Midpines, mountain-goers will find the Jerseydale Campground and the south and middle forks of the Merced River.

The Jerseydale campground offers vault toilets, fire rings, tables, and piped water.

The middle fork of the Merced River runs through Yosemite Valley and El Portal, then west through Sierra National Forest to Lake McClure. Seventy-nine miles of this fork are Wild and Scenic—its entire length except the last eight miles between Briceburg and Lake McClure. The south fork begins at Chain Lakes in Yosemite, flows through Wawona, and then north through Sierra National Forest, to join the main fork below El Portal—all 43 miles are Wild and Scenic. The main fork of the Merced River is a popular attraction for whitewater rafting and kayaking during good spring flows. Several commercial rafters provide trips down portions of the river. A rafting permit is not required for private trips.

State Highway 168 and Dinkey Creek Road
The main artery, State Highway 168 taps into the heart of Sierra National Forest's diverse geography. The route is a mix of a two- and four-lane highway that runs through rolling foothills before tackling the steep Tollhouse Grade.

In contrast to the tourism-geared State Highway 41 region, this region offers the outdoor enthusiast a variety of opportunities. Here, the traveler goes to "get away from it all" and enjoy nature's bounty. From glacially carved mountain peaks and valleys to soft, bubbling brooks, many people come here to wrest away city rigors and unwind. Others travel to this region to participate in its many sporting opportunities.

Auberry and Power House Roads
Located on the rolling Sierra foothills, Kerckhoff and Redinger Lakes offer year-round picnicking, boating, swimming, and water skiing. The lakes, hydroelectric projects by the Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison companies, are on the San Joaquin River and located off State Highway 168 on Auberry and Power House roads. Access is also available via the town of North Fork.

Dinkey Creek Road
Off State Highway 168, near the town of Shaver Lake, Dinkey Creek Road and McKinley Grove Road access many of the Forest's vast recreation opportunities. The route is paved in its entirety to Wishon Reservoir and is easily traversed by all vehicles.

Dinkey Creek, a popular destination for both families and groups, has two campgrounds available. Services include tables, fire rings, flush and vault toilets, and piped water. The group campgrounds can accommodate up to 50 people. There is a fee for both family and group campgrounds and reservations can be made. The campgrounds are subject to closure by snow in the winter.

Eastward along McKinley Grove Road from Dinkey Creek are two more campgrounds: Gigantea and Buck Meadow. Near the campgrounds are the second of two giant sequoia groves in the Sierra National Forest. Both campgrounds have limited services, are first-come, first-served, and closed by snow in the winter.

The final destinations on McKinley Grove Road are the high country Courtright and lower elevation Wishon reservoirs. Both reservoirs are along the headwaters of the Kings River and house one of the hardest working waters in the world. Located underground, and linking both reservoirs is the Helms Hydroelectric Project. During the day, massive, semi-truck sized tunnels drain water from the higher Courtright reservoir through three hydroelectric generators before ending in the lower Wishon Reservoir. At night, the generators reverse and pump the water back to Courtright reservoir to begin the process again. Despite the lakes water level fluctuation, fishing remains excellent and boating safe.

Other activities that the area offers are hunting, hiking, sightseeing, and camping. There are four Forest Service campgrounds located on the reservoir's shores. Lily Pad is at Wishon. Marmot, Trapper Springs, and Voyager Rock are at Courtright. All campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis. Voyager Rock is located on the east side of Courtright Reservoir on the Dusy/Ershim off-highway route and is accessible by four-wheel drive or boat. All campgrounds are usually accessible from June through October.

Destinations along State Highway 168
Nestled among the pines, Shaver Lake offers water skiing, fishing, houseboating, swimming, and camping and is also a popular snow play area in the winter. Dorabelle and Swanson Meadow, the two National Forest campgrounds in the area that are on a first-come, first-served basis, provide tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and parking spurs. Swanson Meadow does not have piped water. Both campgrounds are closed by snow in the winter.

Located along State Highway 168 above Shaver Lake is the Forest's excellent alpine and nordic skiing, snowmobiling, and areas to "just get out and play in the snow." Sierra Summit, located near Huntington Lake, is a full service alpine and nordic skiing resort. National Forest cross-country skiers will find miles of marked trails at Goat Meadow, Huntington Lake, and Tamarack Ridge. Snowmobilers will find marked trails at Huntington Lake and Tamarack Ridge. Many of the areas are designated as a "Sno-Park," and are kept clear of snow by CalTrans. All of the Sno-Parks are located along State Highway 168; one at Balsam Meadow, one at Huntington Lake, and two at Tamarack Ridge.

Consistent evening winds and stable lake levels have made Huntington Lake one of the premier and popular high altitude sailing regions in the United States. Sailors from America and Europe travel to Huntington Lake to participate in the High Sierra Regatta every July. Along with the excellent sailing, the Huntington Lake area offers boating, fishing, camping, and hiking. There are six family campgrounds located at the lake: Rancheria, College, Deer Creek, Kinnickinnick, Catavee, and Billy Creek. Facilities include piped water, flush and vault toilets, tables, fire rings, parking spurs, and charge a daily fee for camping. Reservations are required. All campgrounds are closed by snow in the winter except Rancheria, which is open to snow camping. Group campgrounds are found east of the lake on Kaiser Pass Road. Badger Flat and Midge Creek can each accommodate up to 100 people and can be reserved.

Two of the popular destinations of the Huntington Lake area are Rancheria Falls and Black Point. At the peak of the spring run-off, Rancheria Falls has a width of 50 feet and a vertical drop of 150 feet. Access to the falls is via a one-mile hike on the Rancheria Falls National Recreation Trial east of Huntington Lake. West of Huntington Lake is the Black Point National Recreational Trail—a moderate, half-mile, panoramic view of Huntington and Shaver Lakes. Nationally designated trails are routes that are singled out for their especially scenic and unique qualities.

Located on the one-lane Kaiser Pass Road, above Huntington Lake, are the remote, high country Florence and Edison lakes. Each lake offers excellent fishing, boating, camping, and scenery. Also in the area are a number of trailheads to the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness areas. A number of developed and dispersed campgrounds dot this beautiful region and are all on a first-come, first-served basis and provide toilets, tables, fire rings, and parking spurs. Many have piped water and charge a fee. Some of the more popular campgrounds are Portal Forebay, Mono Hot Springs, Ward Lake, Jackass Meadow at Florence Lake, and Vermilion at Edison Lake. Large motorhomes and trailers are not recommended in the area due to the narrow, winding Kaiser Pass Road. The area is usually accessible from late spring through October; moreover, if you plan to visit the area in late fall bring tire chains due to occasional snow flurries.

Another popular destination off Kaiser Pass Road is Stump Springs Road. This route encompasses the entire 22,700 acres of the Kaiser Wilderness area and ends below Huntington Lake. Sample Meadow and West Kaiser are the two National Forest campgrounds along the route and offer limited services and charge no fees. Access to Stump Springs Road is subject to snow closures.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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